U.S. drones tar­get So­ma­lia mil­i­tants

Mil­i­tary says three strikes in 24 hours kill sev­eral fighters.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Abdi Guled

MO­GADISHU, SO­MA­LIA — U.S. forces say they have car­ried out three drone strikes within 24 hours in So­ma­lia, step­ping up their cam­paign against the Is­lamic ex­trem­ist rebels of al-Shabab and the Is­lamic State group.

The strikes by un­manned drones killed sev­eral ex­trem­ist fighters, a spokes­woman for the U.S. mil­i­tary com- mand in Africa told The Associated Press Sun­day. With these three at­tacks, the U.S. has now car­ried out 26 at­tacks in So­ma­lia against ex­trem­ist tar­gets in 2017, she said.

The lat­est U.S. strikes were car­ried out in co­or­di­na­tion with So­ma­lia’s gov­ern­ment, she said.

The first strike hap­pened Satur­day at ap­prox­i­mately 4:30 p.m. lo­cal So­ma­lia time and killed one fighter for the ex­trem­ist group al-Shabab, said a U.S. Afr i ca com­mand state­ment. The strike oc­curred near Gaduud, about 250 miles south­west of the

cap­i­tal, Mo­gadishu, it said. The U.S. strike came af­ter

al-Shabab at­tacked a con­voy of U.S. and So­mali forces, it said.

“We as­sess no civil- ians were any­where near the site,” said the spokes­woman. “We take all mea­sures dur­ing the tar­get­ing process to painstak­ingly en­sure that civil­ian casu- al­ties and col­lat­eral dam- ages are avoided and that we com­ply with the prin- ciples of the Law of Armed Con­flict.”

The sec­ond strike oc­curred Sun­day at ap­prox­i­mately 3 a.m. against al-Shabab, in the Lower Sha­belle re­gion about 40 miles west of the cap­i­tal Mo­gadishu.

Al-Shabab, the dead­li­est Is­lamic ex­trem­ist group in Africa, has been blamed for the mas­sive truck bomb­ing in Mo­gadishu last month that killed more than 350 peo­ple.

Al-Shabab has pledged al­le­giance to al-Qaida “and is ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing safe haven for ter­ror­ist at­tacks through­out the world,” said the spokes­woman, adding that al-Shabab “has pub­licly com­mit­ted to plan­ning and con­duct­ing at­tacks against the U.S. and our part­ners in the re­gion.”

The third strike was against the Is­lamic State group in So­ma­lia’s north­ern Punt­land area, she said. It hap­pened at about 9 a.m. Sun­day. This is the sec­ond U.S. strike against the IS group in So­ma­lia. The first was ear­lier this month. The IS group has emerged in So­ma­lia over two years and many of its fighters de­fected from al-Shabab.

The U.S. forces are work­ing with So­ma­lia’s se­cu­rity forces and the 22,000-strong African Union force of sol­diers from neigh­bor­ing coun­tries and they are “tar­get­ing ter­ror­ists, their train­ing camps and safe havens through­out So­ma­lia, the re­gion and around the world,” she said.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ear­lier this year ap­proved ex­panded mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions against ex­trem­ists in this Horn of Africa na­tion.

So­ma­lia’s pres­i­dent has vowed a “state of war” against the ex­trem­ists but con­cern is grow­ing about that when the African Union force leaves So­ma­lia, the

na­tional army will not be able to cope. The AU this week an­nounced the be­gin

ning of its with­drawal from the heav­ily frac­tured na­tion, say­ing it will cut 1,000 troops by the end of the year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.